The Journal of African History

Research Article

Dingane: A Reappraisal

Felix N. C. Okoye

Dingane was ruler of Zululand and Natal for over a decade (1828–40) and incurred, by the murder of Piet Retief and his followers, the seemingly undying hatred of historians. Almost every commentator on this period of Zulu history has portrayed him as a man with hardly a redeeming quality: blood-thirsty, capricious, treacherous, self-indulgent, an absolute despot, an ingrate and an inveterate liar. What is remarkable about this consensus among historians is that Dingane, as will be shown subsequently, lacked all these unflattering attributes. Many reasons could be given for this grievous error on the part of scholars. Among these must be included their failure to resolve the glaring contradictions between the promises and actions of the Zulu king, and an inability to understand the dynamics of an alien society.